Friday, May 11, 2007
Making Things Worse
Here's an interesting writing lesson from The Blood Knight. One of the many techniques for writing riveting and compelling fiction is to get your characters into a bad situation and instead of freeing them make things worse. Keyes has an interesting situation in which some characters are trying to figure out how to get past some bad guys only to face a much more serious problem. A horde of transmorgified villagers come screaming through the area ravaging and destroying everything that gets in their way. They are an unstoppable (semi) human wave. The group of main characters decide to climb up a tree in order to get away from them. (This brings up another lesson that Keyes teaches with this scene: Creating Great Fiction 101- a) get your characters up a tree, b) throw rocks at them.) Now comes the point of this post; you want to constantly make things worse for your main character(s). So how do you do it in this instance? One thought that came to me was to make the tree fall over. That would definitely be Very Bad for the characters. But the problem would be that the internal logic of the book demands that they be ripped to shreds. In order to arrange for their continued journey towards The End, Keyes would have to come up with some kind of miraculous way for them to survive. There are only so many miracles that you can stick into a novel. Therefore, making things Impossibly Bad for your main characters is something you cannot do. Be careful about that. You want things bad but not too bad. If you are writing something and you feel you need a miraculous escape, you've probably fallen into this trap.